Review article: hepatorenal syndrome—how to assess response to treatment and nonpharmacological therapy

V Arroyo
Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics 2004, 20: 49-54; discussion 55-6
Hepatorenal syndrome (HRS) is a complex syndrome. In addition to severe reduction of renal function due to renal vasoconstriction, there is impairment in systemic haemodynamics, activation of the renin-angiotensin and sympathetic nervous systems and antidiuretic hormone, vasoconstriction of the brain, muscle and skin, and dilutional hyponatraemia. Treatment in patients with type 2 HRS, the most frequent form of HRS, is directed towards managing refractory ascites. Paracentesis is the treatment of choice. TIPS is also effective but is more expensive, is associated with higher incidence of hepatic encephalopathy, and does not increase survival. Although a rapidly progressive renal failure is the most characteristic manifestation of type 1 HRS, there is failure in other organs such as the liver and the brain. A decrease in cardiac output develops in these patients, associated with a decrease in cardiopulmonary pressures. Since type 1 HRS mainly occurs in patients with spontaneous bacterial peritonitis and massive release of cytokines within the peritoneal cavity, it may be considered as a special form of multiorgan failure of circulatory origin. Not surprisingly, the treatment of choice in type 1 HRS is the combination of vasoconstrictors to reduce arterial vasodilation and plasma volume expansion with albumin to increase cardiac preload. TIPS is also effective in these patients and the combination of pharmacological treatment followed by TIPS may be the most effective approach.

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